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Osceola, Nevada

Brief history of Osceola.
This is not a ghost town.
Small mining operations continue in the area.

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Early photo of Osceola

© September 1998, Donna Frederick

From Ely, Nevada take U.S. 50 east (going south) for 34 miles. Bear right off U.S. 50 and continue three miles to Osceola. This turnoff is well marked with a Nevada Historical Marker depicting some of the history in the area.

Osceola is properly pronounced “Asi-yahola. The name honors the noted Seminole chief Osceola and is from asi, “black drink” and Yaholo, a drawn out cry made by an attendant while each man drinks in turn. It is situated in a canyon, with mountains on the north and west at an altitude of 7,500 feet. George G. Blair first settled the town. By 1881, Blair was keeping the mining records and the town contained two stores, one hotel, one restaurant, one livery stable, a blacksmith shop, and other places of industry. The buildings were constructed mostly of wood. A frame school house 12x20 with a seating capacity of thirty had been erected.

Osceola Mining District is a mineral rich area containing Placer Gold, Gold, Silver, Lead, Tungsten, and Phosphate Rock. Joseph Watson and Frank Hicks discovered the Osceola District in August 1872. It was organized in October of the same year. Lack of water to wash the gravel initially hindered development.

In early days, Osceola had the reputation of being a good steady district. While other placer camps wavered between lean and fat years, this one had consistently produced gold. The “dry wash” boys always had plenty of coin.

At peak times between 1873 and 1877 as many as 400 miners worked claims. They used pans, rockers and arrastras to recover the ore. A 5-stamp mill was erected in 1878, the same year the district got its post office. The Osceola post office was established March 25, 1878. The mail was brought from Deseret, Utah three times a week.

Osceola has been thought of as principally a placer camp, but at least three quartz mills were located in the district. The early principal quartz mines were the Cresant, Osceola Credit Mobilier, Cumberland, Eagle, Exchange and Silver Age. The Crescent had a tunnel 500 feet long, and reached a depth of 250 feet below the surface.

The placer mines were the Wisel, Scofield, Cumberland, Gulch and Day Gulch. There was also a shaft 125 feet deep. Several large nuggets were found below bedrock. Presumably, the largest nugget ever found in Nevada was located at Osceola. Again, historians tell conflicting stories. I do not know which is true - I was not there! VERSION 1: A man by the name of Darling was working for John Verzan, one of the early miners to make the discovery of the dry gulch diggings in 1877. Verzan took a liking to Darling, and because of his age, gave him easy work. One day Verzan had Darling stripping. Several days later Darling quit, stating that his father was ill. Verzan offered him employment all winter taking out pay dirt to be sluiced in the spring, but Darling could not be persuaded to stay. A few days after Darling left, Verzan went into Ward. He was surprised to meet Darling on the streets. Finding Darling in very low spirits, Verzan tried to cheer him up. Darling was very upset, and finally told Verzan that he had found a large nugget and had stolen it. Darling then reached into his shirt and brought forth fourteen bars of gold, only half of what the nugget contained. Darling had taken the nugget to the Monitor Mill at Taylor and had it weighed. There he learned the weight was twenty-five pounds. He then continued across Steptoe Valley. Finding he was unable to break the nugget, Darling took it to the assayers at Ward, who kept a portion as a fee, to be melted down. VERSION 2: W. B. Garaghan, J. C. Poujade, and John Verzan owned the mine. The employee who found the nugget was Charles Keisel.

Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Bulletin 85, list the major mines as Rose Cave, Summit group, Dry Gulch-Pilot Knob groups, Hogum groups and Black Mule.

The miners were able to get firewood close at hand, but timbering material for the mines had to be brought seven or eight miles. Water for hydraulics was brought from the small streams from Wheeler’s Peak that furnished about 100 miner’s inches per day. Supplies had to be obtained from San Francisco, by rail to Eureka and then by stage 115 miles or from Salt Lake City to Deseret, an then by stage 100 miles.

Osceola Placer Mining Company operated the most important placers from the early 1880’s to 1900. The best years came after the canals were completed in 1884. Osceola Placer Mining Company was the first in Nevada to use hydraulic hoses. The canals lost efficiency about 1900 and major work ended. The Osceola ditch is still visible.

In May of 1903, during a brief revival, a newpaper, Osceola Nugget was started. The editor and publisher are unknown and no issues located. Phosphate rock was discovered in 1917, and lead ore shipped in 1918. In 1921, the Sunrise property operated a 2-stamp mill and the American Group a 10-stamp mill, producing gold bullion with a little silver content. Major mines in the area were the Cumberland Mine, Pilot Knob Group and the Lucky Boy Mine.

Various individuals continued working the claims. Enough miners remained to support a store and saloons. The post office finally closed December 15, 1920 when Baker became the mail address for its patrons.